Building A Community Of Writers: Creating Enabling Writing Environments

The quality of writing in our classrooms grows more from the tone, values, and relationships of our classroom communities than from anything else. – Lucy Calkins.

As part of our ongoing work on building a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy, we have been reflecting on the first principle of our Writing For Pleasure manifesto:

Creating A Community Of Writers (1)

When writers see their teachers as positive, caring and interested in pupils’ lives, they are more likely to engage in writing at a high level of achievement. The aim is to create a community of writers, in which teachers write alongside children and share their own writing practices, and children are shown how to talk about their own and their peers’ writing in a positive and constructive way.

What needs attention when trying to build a community of writers in your class or school? This obviously means creating an environment where writers can flourish.

Below, we have offered some questions that might be worth reflecting on. If you’ve written about writing environments yourself or would like to contribute, you’re welcome to use the comments section below.

Finally, at the end, we have provided a small list of books which are great reading if building a community of writers sounds like something you’d like to learn more about.

What do you do, teach, or provide to create an enabling writing environment?

  • Do children have sufficient time to write?
  • Are they encouraged to write at home and use this in class?
  • Do they have access to rich literature and other modalities of writing?
  • Do the children get time to learn from and share their writing with each other?
  • Does your discourse sound like writers talking to each other?
  • Does the environment encourage publication?

How do high-quality writing environments help children’s learning and your teaching?

  • Children become engaged writers
  • Children become self-sufficient and self-regulating
  • Children see links between reading and writing
  • Children see links between writing and the outside world

How would you like to develop your community/family of writers further?

  • Access to high quality school/home writing notebooks.
  • Invite parents and the wider-community into our writing environment more often.
  • Have some parent helpers – publish some of the children’s pieces of their behalf for the class book-stock.
  • Create greater opportunities for children to publish to a wider audience.

Do you promote Ralph Peterson’s eight components of learning communities?

  1. Ceremonies. Where you hold meetings to foster a writing identity for the class and discuss potential writing projects.
  2. Rituals. Activities which express value and commitment to writing and being a writer.
  3. Rights. Children have access to a agreed principles which are shared and supported by the whole writing community.
  4. Celebrations. Festive activities which highlight children’s writing achievements. This can include spur-of-the-moment celebrations.
  5. Talk. Talk is an essential part of community life and an important learning tool.
  6. Play. Students engage in play when writing; creating writing projects collaboratively; playing with language and with forms of writing. Play is a spirit and an attitude whilst children work on their writing.
  7. Routines. Students learn procedures for working in an orderly and reassuringly consistent way. They take responsibility for regulating themselves as they write.
  8. Residency. Children begin to feel a sense of belonging and membership in the writing community – where their writing identity and voice is valued, supported and developed by teacher and peer alike.

What can people read to find out more about creating rich writing environments?

Writing Voices: Creating Communities of Writers by Teresa Cremin & Debra Myhill

An absolute must read for anyone interested in creating communities and rich environments for writing to take place.

Build a Literate Classroom by Donald Graves 

The gold standard of creating writers and writers’ classroom! Only £1.17 on Amazon!

Life in a Crowded Place: Making a Learning Community by Ralph Peterson

According to Peterson, in this book, ‘the classroom community is a more important factor in students’ academic success than any particular instructional method.’

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In The Middle by Nancie Atwell

A seminal text on creating a climate for writers to flourish – perfect for KS2 and KS3.

No More ‘I’m Done’ Fostering Independent Writers In The Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson

A perfect text for creating communities of writers in KS1/LKS2 – really accessible read.

Joining the Literacy Club: Further Essays into Education by Frank Smith

This text is a bit more heavy going but is infinitely fascinating and thought provoking

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